September 20, 2005

Storm kills 34 in south India, 50,000 homeless

HYDERABAD, India (Reuters) - A severe storm has ripped
through southern India, killing at least 34 people and leaving
50,000 homeless, officials said on Tuesday.

Hundreds of trees and electricity poles were uprooted by
strong winds and heavy overnight rains which triggered flooding
in the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh state.

Most of the victims were either electrocuted or died in
house collapses, officials said.

Eleven people died in the coastal West Godavari district
while five others were electrocuted in Khamman district after
waters from the overflowing Godavari, the state's largest
river, flooded housing colonies, district officials said.

The airport in the port city of Visakhapatnam, 525 km (325
miles) east of Hyderabad, was closed because the runway was
partially flooded.

"All traffic, rail, road and air, has been suspended on the
east coast for the next 24 hours in view of heavy rainfall
predicted under the influence of the cyclone," said Shashank
Goel, a top state disaster management official.

Coast guard boats were searching for dozens of missing
fishermen who did not return to shore on Monday.

Low-lying colonies in many small towns have been flooded,
Goel said.

"Helicopters have been rushed to the districts to rescue
people stranded on housetops and trees," he added.

Officials said they were bracing for more rain in the
region although the storm itself had substantially weakened.

Storms and cyclones formed in the Bay of Bengal lash
India's eastern states and Bangladesh around September and
October months almost every year, killing hundreds of people
and destroying cattle and crops.